A college-bound teenager with cerebral palsy sent a letter to Nike several years ago. He explained that he had trouble tying laces and slipping into shoes without help and that he didn’t want sneakers that looked clunky and clinical. He wanted Nikes, stylish ones like other students wore that worked for him.
In response, the company introduced a line called FlyEase. They’re slip-ons with a zipper that seals the back and then Velcro-ties the top in one simple motion.
Not incidentally, they look fantastic.
Too often products made for people with different physical, cognitive and sensory abilities have been ugly, feebly designed and stigmatizing.
They’ve been developed not by designers but by engineers. And engineers haven’t always taken their cues from people who have disabilities, the ones who know best what they need and want.
The exhibition called “Access+Ability “, in New York, where the above mentioned shoes were displayed, makes plain why design matters. It points toward a generational change in thinking, not just about designing for difference but about diversity and inclusion. Make a specialty item easier to use — and at the same time, fun, cool and beautiful — and that item may be embraced and used by all. The real issue isn’t disability. It’s choice.
Some other products at the exhibition like : designer hearing aids, designer prosthetic leg